Amazon’s contest for its second headquarters could have a surprise ending

Image: Reuters/Joshua Roberts
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Plot twist!

Instead of locating its second headquarters in a single city, Amazon plans to split HQ2 evenly between two sites, the Wall Street Journal reported Nov. 5, citing a person familiar with the matter.

The decision is being driven by Amazon’s ability to recruit sufficient tech talent, the Journal reported. With two separate sites, Amazon would hire 25,000 employees in each city, rather than the “50,000 high-paying jobs” it initially promised to create in the winning site, equivalent to its current footprint in Seattle. A decision is expected by the end of this year.

Amazon didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Amazon’s search for a second headquarters has been a yearlong, high-stakes drama, pitting the cities of North America against each other as they competed for its business. The company received 238 applications from cities and metro areas in the US, Mexico, and Canada, which it narrowed to a 20-member shortlist this past January. Eager suitors offered everything from a 21-foot cactus to billions of dollars in tax breaks if Amazon should choose them.

Cities were willing to offer these incentives because of what Amazon promised for HQ2: a $5 billion investment over 18 years, and 50,000 jobs with compensation averaging around $100,000. Experts have called Amazon’s second headquarters the biggest thing to happen in economic development, ever.

It’s unclear how breaking up the headquarters between two cities might change the desirability of winning Amazon’s business. The company was reported multiple times to be in late-stage talks with cities including Crystal City, Virginia, and Dallas, Texas, but was never before said to be dividing its headquarters and economic impact between two sites.